A 17-year-old tiger rescued from a failing zoo in Greece and sent to a California wildlife sanctuary has died after a long decline in health, officials said on Sunday.
Phevos was euthanized last week after veterinarians said his failing health was making it difficult to manage his pain, administer medication, or keep him fed, according to a statement from the Lions Tigers & Bears sanctuary in Alpine, California, near San Diego.
Years of poor medical treatment, abuse and neglect had taken its toll on the tiger, and after showing signs of improvement earlier in the summer, his health began to decline again and had been slipping for at least two months, officials said.
"Before his state deteriorated further, the decision was made with a heavy heart and much contemplation, to humanely euthanize our dear friend, Phevos," said the sanctuary's lead veterinarian, Jane Meier.
Sanctuary officials described Phevos as "a tiger that truly defied all odds thrown his way."
"He fought a long and hard battle in this lifetime, and had been through so much," said Bobbi Brink, founder and director of the non-profit accredited sanctuary.
Phevos was born in captivity and spent the first years of his life with an Italian touring circus, the sanctuary said.
In 2002, Phevos, his mate, Athena, and five other tigers were seized by Greek authorities, officials said. Phevos and Athena were sent to the Trikala Zoo, near Athens, where they lived together until March 2014, when Athena died of medical neglect after a wound in her paw went untreated for more than a year.
Phevos arrived in the United States in December after a 20-hour trip that made international headlines and was financed by an activist from the United Kingdom who had been instrumental in his rescue from the circus a decade before.
The sanctuary described Phevos as a gentle giant and said he had made friends with another male tiger at the sanctuary.
"Phevos enjoyed sunning himself in the cool grass, lounging in the shallows of his pool, and taking naps in his beds of hay," the sanctuary statement said.
A memorial service will be held at the sanctuary on Saturday, Oct. 3, the statement said.